Lori-Lee Emshey/The Medium

Earlier this month, the Art  Gallery of Mississauga (AGM) unveiled Fireworks 2011, an exhibition by Ontario Clay and Glass Association members in collaboration with FUSION  magazine to showcase the best contemporary clay and glass  artwork from the Golden  Horseshoe. Gloria Hickey, the  ceramics professor at Sheridan College and Chris Gustin, founder of Watershed Ceramics, will award 10 prizes for pieces in the  collection.

The exhibit started 35 years ago. Every two years, jurors select pieces from the Ontario Clay and Glass Association to be part of the  travelling collection.

This collection doesn’t feature the kind of ceramics and glassware your grandmother keeps in a locked cabinet. The pieces, staged openly on podiums, range from delicate baubles that could have come from The Little Mermaid or Alice in Wonderland to things that do not look like  ceramics or glass—such as a drawer filled with sliced bread or a painter’s satchel—to beautiful and exotic vases and bowls that you can’t help think might look really good on your coffee table. The pieces range from cute babies and  bunnies to the abstract, and from practical teapots, saucers, and nested bowls to decorative statuary reminiscent of the sculptures in Beetlejuice.

Conspicuously placed around the gallery are signs asking to  refrain from touching the  artwork. At first this seems  obvious, but after a few minutes walking around the gallery space, it becomes difficult to refrain from poking and prodding at the  pieces just to confirm they really are ceramics and not canvas, bark, paper, or bread.

The pieces are freestanding and allow you to peer in, around,  under, and through them, which is important because some pieces look plain and unfinished on the outside, but in fact conceal scenes and designs which require a closer look.

Also on display is the Rural/Urban Divide collection. This  collection includes paintings, prints, and photographs that  investigate the borders between urban and rural and how that distinction is becoming blurred. Particularly grabbing is an oil painting on panel by Pierre  Lefebvre called “Au petit jour”, which looks like a window into another room. There are dozens of other pieces representing boats, cars,  naked picnics, dragons, skateboarders, and piano lessons, just to name a few.

The exhibit  contains pieces pulled from the permanent collection at the AGM; due to its sheer  diversity, it has at least one thing to which everyone can relate.

Fireworks and Urban/Rural Divide are the first exhibits by  curator Stuart Keeler, who took over at the beginning of September. Keeler has curated exhibits in  Chicago, Toronto, and Atlanta and has his own  artwork on display all over the United States. The exhibition runs until November 6, and  admission is free. The  AGM is  located at the Living Arts Centre at Square One.

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